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86 dead in Colombia amid this year's heavy rain, Red Cross says

By Rafael Romo, CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An intense rainy season brings mudslides and flooding, a Red Cross official says
  • "This is the longest rainy season we've had in the last 40 years," she says
  • President Santos: "This tragedy has no precedent in our history"

(CNN) -- Torrential rain and massive floods that have been pounding Colombia this year have not let up, and dozens of people are dead amid widespread destruction, the Colombian Red Cross said Wednesday.

Eighty-six people have died so far this year, it said, mainly in the central region that includes the provinces of Cundinamarca, Caldas and Antioquia. Fifty have been injured and 21 are still missing.

In addition, 378,000 people have been evacuated in the South American country because their homes were destroyed by the floods, the Red Cross said. Affected areas include 1,001 municipalities in 28 of the 32 Colombian provinces. The Federal District, in which Bogota, the capital, is located, also has been affected.

Sandra Calvo, a spokeswoman with the Colombian Red Cross, called the situation "very complicated" and a "total emergency."

"This is the longest rainy season we've had in the last 40 years and the one that has caused the most destruction," Calvo said. "We've had everything from mudslides and flooding to rivers overflowing and destroying everything in their path."

After touring one of the most affected areas, the municipality of Puerto Nare in Antioquia province, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said more rain is expected, which will further complicate the situation. "This tragedy has no precedent in our history. These mountains behind me are literally crumbling and that's going to cause many problems," he said.

Santos also called on Colombians to "work together," and "coordinate our efforts" to reduce the "immense costs resulting from this tragedy."

Andres Gonzalez Diaz, governor of Cundinamarca province, said this is "the worst catastrophe" his government has faced. "We have hundreds of destroyed houses and important crops that were swept away by the floods, but fortunately we've been able to minimize the loss of human lives," he said.

Gonzalez also said that at least 20 people have died in Cundinamarca. A dozen people died in accidents resulting from roads and bridges left structurally unstable by floods and heavy rain.

Antioquia is the province with the highest number of fatalities. The death toll there stands at 131, according to the Colombian Red Cross.

This is the second consecutive year that Colombia has been devastated by torrential rain and massive flooding. Last year 408 people died in the nation and more than 2.8 million people were left homeless or affected in some way by the rain.

 
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